How to Preserve Tree Seeds

Overview

Interest in reforestation projects is growing in many countries, including the United States, according to Henry Baldwin of the New Hampshire Forestry and Recreation Commission. This interest extends from introducing new tree species into the environment to preserving or even revitalizing the decreasing populations of native species. Since tree seeds used for reforestation do not come from the area in which they are planted, they must be carefully collected and preserved. Preserving tree seeds is key to the successful germination and growth of these seeds.

Seed Pods

Step 1

Select a healthy, disease-free tree to collect seeds.

Step 2

Wait until seeds mature and begin to fall from the tree before collecting. Seed heads and seed pods, such those found in the cotton wood or magnolia tree, turn brown and split open when they mature.

Step 3

Remove the seed pod or seed head from the tree with pruning shears.

Step 4

Place the seed pod or head in a brown paper bag and store it in a dry place until seeds dry completely.

Step 5

Tip the seeds from the bag and pick them out of their seed casings. Discard any shriveled seeds.

Step 6

Place seed in paper envelopes. Label the envelopes with the seed name and date. Place envelopes in a plastic bag and store in a cool, dry place.

Catkins or Cones

Step 1

Choose a tree that is healthy and disease-free.

Step 2

Gather cones from conifer trees or catkins from birch trees while they are still green. Cones should not yet be open.

Step 3

Place catkins in a brown paper bag and store them in a warm, dry place until they open.

Step 4

Tip out the bag. Shake the cones and break up the catkins. Collect seeds and separate them from debris.

Step 5

Place seed in paper envelopes. Label them with the seed name and date. Place envelopes in a plastic bag and store in a cool, dry place.

Fleshy Fruits and Berries

Step 1

Collect fleshy fruits and berries before they ripen. Seeds often go dormant in ripened fruit.

Step 2

Separate the fleshy portion of the fruit from the seed. Berries should be crushed to remove flesh. Cut fruit, such as apples or pears, away from the seed.

Step 3

Wash fruit seeds to remove any remaining flesh. Allow them to air dry thoroughly.

Step 4

Place seed in paper envelopes. Label them with the seed name and date. Place envelopes in a plastic bag and store in a cool, dry place.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Brown paper bag
  • Envelope
  • Plastic bag

References

  • Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations: Handling Tree Seeds
  • USDA Forrest Service: National Seed Laboratory
  • Wild Chicken Nature and Technology: Collecting, drying and storing your own seeds

Who Can Help

  • North Carolina State University: Trees with Attractive Berries/Fruits/Seeds
Keywords: saving seeds, propagating trees, reforrestation project

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.